The Side Project Landscape: What You Should Know and Why You Should Care

The side project landscape
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This piece is meant to get you up to speed on the side project landscape by providing a glimpse at different types of projects, examples of each, and developing trends in the space.

While they come in many forms, side projects all involve using one’s free time in a structured manner in pursuit of a goal.

Types of Projects

Broadly speaking, side projects come in the categories of formalizing a hobby, starting a business, or advancing a career.

Passion Projects

These projects serve as hobbies – something done for passion over paycheck. 


Makers either focus on building hardware or software products.

Hardware makers:

Software makers:

Content Creators

This group creates via writing, video creation, photography, etc.

Side Businesses

These projects aim to make money.

Side Hustles

Projects meant to make an additional stream of income.

  • Indie Hackers – a community of hackers building profitable online businesses 


Starting a company while working a full-time job with the goal of eventually going all-in

  • Airbnb started out as a side project (and so did Twitter, Instagram, Slack, and more!)
  • Many businesses start this way! Listen here for an argument as to why you should start your business while you still have your job

Career Advancement

Most people don’t think about this, but it’s entirely possible to gain experience in a field outside of your current role via side projects, be it for exploration, switching jobs, or advancing your current position.

Career Exploration

Using side projects to try out different roles.

  • On experiential learning: learning by doing – read or listen

Career Transitions

Gaining experience in a different field.


Exercising entrepreneurial traits in your current work.


  • Build in public to form new connections, gain an audience for your product, and solidify your own learnings
  • Leverage the rise of remote work to use the extra time to work on what makes you happy – you’ll be learning along the way
  • Get your start as a solopreneur via side projects, learning each piece of the business slowly before taking the leap full-time


  • There will be “multi-makers” – people running multiple, profitable projects. Some people to watch: Pietr Levels, Dru Riley, Mubashar Iqbal, and David Delahunty
  • Companies will encourage employees to do stretch assignments and side projects; Google is known for its 20 percent time initiative
  • Companies will use also side projects as growth tools to help their regular businesses, building products separate from their core offerings to offer value to new prospects





Bottom Line: the side project landscape provides plenty of options to formalize a hobby, further a career, or start a business.

Read this if you need help using side projects for career advancement

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